Voice For Liberty
Individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas.
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Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
-- James Bovard

As Adam Smith realized 230 years ago, that is the best thing about the market: when we all work in our own interest, we also work in everyone else’s interest. Thus, the market relies on the very traits that keep government planning from working.
-- Randal O'Toole

Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings.
-- George F. Will

Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists.
-- John Kenneth Galbraith
Can Wichita learn from a setback?
What can Wichita learn from the news of layoffs at Spirit and Textron?
Business improvement district on tap in Wichita
The Douglas Design District seeks to transform from a voluntary business organization to a tax-funded branch of government.
Wichita jobs and employment, November 2019
For the Wichita metropolitan area in November 2019, the labor force is up, the number of unemployed persons is down, the unemployment rate is down, and the number of people working is up when compared to the same month one year ago. Seasonal data shows small increases in labor force and jobs from October.
Views of individual Kansans clear in new poll
The Kansas legislature will convene next week with as much an eye to their upcoming elections as to the policy work they’ll tackle. Certainly, some policy-making will be done, but the overriding concern will be the electoral calendar. The views of individual Kansans who are most-concerned about their family and local opportunities can be lost, paradoxically, in that shuffle. From Kansas Policy Institute.
What is Kansas Department of Commerce hiding from public scrutiny?
Kansas Department of Commerce for studies related to the efficacy of state incentive programs and economic development have been rebuffed by the department. That begs the question – what is Commerce Secretary and Governor Laura Kelly trying to hide from public scrutiny? From The Sentinel.
Kansas drops to #34 in state business tax climate
Kansas dropped seven places in the Tax Foundation annual state business tax climate index. Kansas is in 34th place nationwide, down from 27th place. The change puts Kansas well below regional neighbors. From The Sentinel.
It may become more expensive in Wichita
The City of Wichita plans to create a large district where extra sales tax will be charged. The city proposes to pass the ordinance on emergency first reading.
Wichita economy grows, and a revision
The Wichita economy grew in 2018, and revised statistics show growth in 2017.
Kansas jobs, November 2019
Employment and the labor force rose, both by small amounts, in Kansas in November 2019 compared to the prior month. Kansas continues to perform well in year-over-year growth when compared to the nation.
GDP by metropolitan area and component
An interactive visualization of gross domestic product by metropolitan area and industry.
Downtown Wichita population is up
New Census Bureau data shows the population growing in downtown Wichita.
Kansas personal income
For the third quarter of 2019, the rate of personal income growth in Kansas was near the top of the states, but behind the nation in year-over-year growth.
Downtown Wichita jobs rise
The number of jobs in downtown Wichita rose sharply in 2017.
Tax Foundation recommends Kansas changes to spur economic growth
The Kansas Chamber partnered with the Tax Foundation to produce a Kansas tax reform guide to spur economic growth in Kansas. The DC-based Tax Foundation toured the state for nine months speaking to a variety of Kansas taxpayers including property taxpayers and international businesses. From The Sentinel.
Wichita city council approves property tax increases in Delano TIF
The Wichita city council unanimously approved an emergency measure today to expand the Delano TIF district, so the city can collect more property tax revenue to pay off subsidies to developers in the district. The emergency vote was taken after the first reading of the emergency measure, which city officials justified as being necessary because today’s meeting was the last of the year. The city needed the approval in 2019 so it can capture 2020 valuation increases to pay off the subsidies. From The Sentinel.
Audit: No accountability of at-risk spending by districts
A Legislative Post Audit of the at-risk spending by school districts in the state of Kansas found that most at-risk spending in the state goes to pay for teacher salaries and general classroom instruction. The result is that spending does not end up going to help those students. From The Sentinel.
School debt sets new records in Kansas
While student achievement remains relatively low and stagnant, local school boards’ focus on constructing new buildings set a new record for school debt at $6.53 billion for the 2019 school year. Debt per-student for the 177 districts with bond debt also set a new record at $15,137. From Kansas Policy Institute.
Wichita water plant contract
Wichita should consider discarding the water plant contract in order to salvage its reputation and respect for process.
Kansas jobs, October 2019
Employment fell and the labor force rose, both by small amounts, in Kansas in October 2019 compared to the prior month. Kansas continues to perform well in year-over-year growth when compared to the nation.
Wichita proposes a convention center despite ‘overbuilt buyers market’
Downtown boosters want a new and much larger convention center as the centerpiece of the Wichita Riverfront Legacy Masterplan, but at least one expert says space is already overbuilt across the country, and even prime destinations are effectively giving it away rent-free. From The Sentinel.
NAEP scores leave Kansas Association of School Boards making excuses
KASB trivialized NAEP to make the results seem both insignificant and suspect by stating that NAEP “tests a small sample of students,” implying that the scores don’t mean much and that the results can’t actually be extrapolated to the general population. Despite how KASB portrays NAEP, KSDE calls it the “gold standard” of assessments. From Kansas Policy Institute.
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The Wichita baseball team's name
Is the name of the new Wichita baseball team important? Yes, as it provides insight.
Net neutrality, regulation, and the internet
Dr. Theodore Bolema spoke at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on the topics of net neutrality and regulation of the internet. Vide
Wichita consent agenda reform proposed
The Wichita city council will consider reforms to the consent agenda. In the past, the city has placed major items on the consent agenda, such as authorizing a $2 million contract with the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau.
Wichita personal income grows
Statistics released this week by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, show personal income in the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area growing at an increasing rate.
Federal budget summary for 2019
Federal revenues for 2019 were up, but spending increased by a larger amount, resulting in a higher deficit.
Sedgwick County talent attraction
In an index ranking counties in talent attraction, Sedgwick County has not performed well.
City comeback bingo
Wichita has amenities that are promoted as creating an uncommonly superior quality of life here, but many are commonplace across the country.
City of Wichita prompts closing of Sedgwick County Soccer Association
The Sedgwick County Soccer Association has closed after decades of league play in Wichita, according to a message sent to The Sentinel. The Sedgwick County Soccer Association closing seems to result from the City of Wichita awarding a no-bid contract for management of the Stryker Sports Complex, which is subsidized by city- and state-approved Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) Bonds. From The Sentinel.
Kansas Justice Institute scores first win for free speech in Kansas
Kansas raw milk farmers can now advertise their products with more than just a sign on their farms, thanks to a lawsuit filed by the Kansas Justice Institute on behalf of Mark and Coraleen Bunner. From The Sentinel.
NAEP scores – double trouble for Kansas students
The U.S. Department of Education released the 2019 scores for the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), and the results are not good for Kansas students. Not only did composite scores drop considerably from 2017, Kansas students are now performing worse than in 2003. Only one in three Kansas 8th graders is proficient in math or reading. The same is true for 4th graders in reading. Fourth graders in math perform only slightly better, with 40% testing proficient. From Kansas Policy Institute.
Economic indicators in the states
For Kansas, the coincident index has been on a mostly upward trend over the past year, although it has leveled for the past few months. The leading index has been rising, although it fell sharply in September.
From Pachyderm: Save Century II
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Speakers promoting the saving of the Century II Convention and Performing Arts Center in downtown Wichita.
Kansas GDP
In the second quarter of 2019, the Kansas economy grew at the annual rate of 2.2 percent, up from a revised -1.1 percent the previous quarter.
Derby dinosaur park attendance much lower than STAR bond target
After two full summers of being in business, the Derby dinosaur park is attracting roughly 45,000 visitors annually according to Garion Masterson, the newly appointed Director of Production and Marketing. “Attendance is hovering around 45,000 a year,” says Masterson. However, as the center attraction of Derby’s STAR Bond district, 45,000 is far below the 112,000 annual visitors in the feasibility study prepared by Canyon Research Southwest that enticed the Derby City Council to back the $20 million STAR bond in 2015. From The Sentinel.
Quarterly Real GDP in Kansas
The interactive visualization Quarterly Real Gross Domestic Product by state and industry holds real (inflation-adjusted) GDP data for states and industries. In the visualization, one presentation shows the contribution to a state’s GDP by each industry.
Kansas sees large drop in test scores
Using demographically-adjusted scores, Kansas falls in state rankings of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Looking at change across all four tests, Kansas had the largest drop in state rankings except for New Hampshire.
2019 state assessment: stagnant, disturbingly low achievement in Kansas schools
Nearly two-thirds of Kansas fourth-graders and 75% of Kansas 10th graders tested below grade level or needing remedial training in math, according to state assessment data published by the Kansas Department of Education. From The Sentinel.
Wichita riverfront plan pushes city-owned apartments, office space
The architectural firm designing the Wichita Riverfront Legacy Master Plan seems to be proposing the City of Wichita as the landlord of premium office space and apartment space, and the downtown non-profit funding most of the plan development won’t rule it out. From The Sentinel.
The cause of the low unemployment rate in Wichita
The unemployment rate for Wichita and the nation is nearly equal over the last eight years. Job growth for Wichita, however, has been much slower than the nation, and the labor force for Wichita is actually smaller than in January 2011. This is what has led to a low unemployment rate in Wichita: Slow job growth paired with a declining labor force.
State and local government employees and payroll
Looking at the number of government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many compared to other states, and especially so in education.
From Pachyderm: Alan Cobb, Kansas Chamber of Commerce
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Alan Cobb, President and Chief Executive officer, Kansas Chamber of Commerce. His topic was “The State of the State Economy: Solutions for Increasing Growth.” This audio presentation or podcast was recorded on October 18, 2019.
Looking at jobs in Wichita
Examining job creation in Wichita as compared to the state and the nation.
Wichita water planning in 2014, and now
In 2014 the City of Wichita advised spending millions on a water project, but it wasn't for the main water treatment plant replacement, and it wasn't financed with debt.
Downtown Wichita jobs
Wichita, not that different
We have a lot of neat stuff in Wichita. Other cities do, too.
Kansas Republicans buck longtime conservative voices
In deciding to forego a presidential caucus or primary, Kansas Republicans act contrary to mainstream conservative thought.
United States manufacturing jobs
During the first two years of the Trump administration, United States manufacturing jobs grew at a monthly rate of 15,833 in 2017 and 22,000 in 2018. For 2019, through September, the monthly rate is 4,556.
What the Block 1 amendment says about downtown Wichita
The amending of a retail lease tells us a lot about the economics of downtown Wichita. After years of subsidy, investment, and promotion, downtown Wichita is not doing well. That’s about the only conclusion we can make when we see the city renting nice retail space for nearly zero rent, and doing this not just once, but twice.
The power and influence of the Wichita mayor
When pursuing a large Wichita city contract, did the winning company lobby all council members, or primarily Mayor Jeff Longwell?
Contribute to a campaign, get (nearly) free rent
Citizens may not have noticed that a campaign contributor to Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell received a large benefit from the city this week.
City code on ethical conduct in Wichita
Wichita has a city code governing ethical conduct by council members, but it seems to have no teeth.
In NAEP mapping study, Kansas shines
In a new edition of a study that assesses the stringency of state school assessments, Kansas performs well. Click for more.
Downtown Wichita jobs decline
Despite heavy promotion and investment in downtown Wichita, the number of jobs continues to decline. Click for more.
Wichita metro employment by industry
An interactive visualization of Wichita-area employment by industry. Click for more.
Kansas Republicans should have their say
Kansas Republicans should insist on having a voice in choosing the next Republican presidential nominee. Click for more.
Wichita checkbook updated
Wichita spending data presented as a summary, and as a list.

Of note, the city does not make this data available on its website. Click for more.
Campaigning on Wichita as recession-proof
The City of Wichita and Mayor Jeff Longwell shouldn’t be using flimsy evidence that is contrary to actual economic data. Click for more.
Wichita property tax rate: Unchanged
The City of Wichita property tax mill levy was unchanged for 2018. This follows two years of small decreases. Click for more.
In Wichita, revision of water history
In 2014 Wichita voters rejected a sales tax which would have provided $250 million to spend on a water project. What were the city’s concerns? Click for more information.
In Wichita, here’s what tax decrement means
Wichita has a financing mechanism known as the Gilbert-Mosley tax decrement fund. I knew about tax increment financing, but I never really understood how tax decrement financing worked. I had thought that in this context, “decrement” had a sophisticated meaning that I wasn’t able to understand because I wasn’t smart enough, or I hadn’t tried hard enough, or I didn’t have the correct documents to read.

Now, Chase M. Billingham and Sean Sandefur have published detailed research that explains how the Gilbert-Mosley financing works. Click for more.
Metropolitan employment and labor force
A visualization of employment, labor force, and unemployment rate for metropolitan areas, now with data through May 2019.

How does the Wichita metropolitan area compare with others regarding employment, labor force, and unemployment rate? A nearby example shows data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor. Considering growth of employment since the start of the decade, the answer is Wichita has not performed well. Click for more.
Wichita transit, by the numbers
Transit in Wichita isn’t working very well, and it is expensive. Click for more.
Wichita transit center application
Although plans have changed, an application by the City of Wichita holds interesting observations and claims. Click for more.
Kansas Freedom Index for 2019
The 2019 Freedom Index is intended to provide educational information to the public about broad economic and education issues that are important to the citizens of our State. It is the product of nonpartisan analysis, study, and research and is not intended to directly or indirectly endorse or oppose any candidate for public office. From Kansas Policy Institute. Click for more.
Updated: National transit database
An interactive visualization of data over time from the National Transit Database. Now with data through 2017. Click for more.
Airport traffic statistics, 2018
Airport traffic data presented in an interactive visualization, updated through 2018. Click for more
Wichita and other airports
How does the Wichita airport compare to others? Click for more
New metropolitan rankings regarding knowledge-based industries and entrepreneurship
New research provides insight into the Wichita metropolitan area economy and dynamism.

There have been some rankings showing Wichita doing well in jobs at young firms. That’s good, as young firms — which are different from small business — are vitally important to economic growth.

This study, however, shows Wichita lagging in young firm employment ratio. In these rankings, Wichita came in at position 247 of 379 metro areas. That is better than the overall ranking for Wichita, which is at number 319. Click for more.
Updated: Metropolitan populations
A visualization of the population of metropolitan statistical areas, now with annual data from 1969 through 2018. Click for more
State government tax collections
Now data for fiscal year 2018 is available, and it shows Kansas collecting $1,172 per person in individual income taxes, an increase of $372 or 46.5 percent over 2017. Click for more.
Populations of the states
An interactive table and charts of populations in the states and regions, from 1929 through 2018. Click for more.
Wichita population, 2018
The City of Wichita lost 1,052 in population from 2017 to 2018, a decline of 0.27 percent.The estimate of population on July 1, 2017 was revised from 390,591 to 390,317, meaning that for 2017, Wichita population declined by 242 from the July 1, 2016 population of 390,509.

With the revised 2017 figure, Wichita has had two years of declining population. Click for more.
Kansas personal income growing, but slowly
For 2017, just four states had less growth in personal income than Kansas. Click for more.
Wichita public schools, by the charts
The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for USD 259, the Wichita public school district, provides a look at trends over the years. Here are some highlights from the CAFR for the year ending June 30, 2018, known as fiscal year 2018. Click for more.
The finances of Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita
A truthful accounting of the finances of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita shows a large loss. Despite hosting the NCAA basketball tournament, the arena’s “net income” fell. Click for more.
KPI releases 2019 Green Book
Each year in the Green Book, Kansas Policy Institute explores the relationship between economic growth and the size of government. From Kansas Policy Institute. Click for more.
Wichita ballpark STAR bonds, 2018 issue
A bond disclosure document anticipated a development agreement for land surrounding the new Wichita ballpark. Click for more.
Wichita population falls; outmigration continues
The population of the Wichita MSA fell from 2017 to 2018, and net domestic migration continues at a high level. Click for more.
Wichita aerospace manufacturing concentration
Wichita leaders want to diversify the area economy. Has there been progress? Click for more.
Updated: Employment in the States
An interactive visualization of the civilian labor force, employment, and unemployment, for each state. Updated through March 2019.

As seen in the nearby example, Kansas continues its undistinguished record in job growth as compared to nearby states. In the visualization, you can easily choose states to compare, select a timeframe, and look at labor force, employment, and unemployment. Click for more.
2018 A-F Grading of Kansas Schools Released
One year ago, Kansas Policy Institute unveiled the initial groundbreaking A-F grading system for Kansas public schools and released the 2018 grade card last week. KPI undertook that effort to create a reporting system so that parents could more easily understand exactly how schools are performing. The Kansas Department of Education (KSDE), like all state education departments across the country, publishes a “Report Card” on its website, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to synthesize all that information to determine overall performance of individual schools. From Kansas Policy Institute. Click for more.
Wichita and national jobs
Overall, since 2011 — roughly the end of the Great Recession — Wichita has been gaining jobs, evidence being its trend line above zero in the nearby chart which shows the change in jobs over the same month one year ago. But the line has not always been above zero, indicating months where the Wichita metropolitan area had fewer jobs than the year before. Click for more.
In Wichita, respecting the people’s right to know
The City of Wichita says it values open and transparent government. But the city’s record in providing information and records to citizens is poor, and there hasn’t been much improvement. Click for more.
Another Wichita survey, another set of problems
The Wichita Eagle editorial board notices problems with a survey gathering feedback on Century II. Click for more.
Wichita, a recession-proof city
Wichita city officials promote an article that presents an unrealistic portrayal of the local economy. Click for more.
Job growth in Wichita: Great news?
A tweet from a top Wichita city official promotes great news that really isn’t so great. There is good news — Wichita is not forecast to lose jobs, as it has in the recent past. But the rate of growth seen for Wichita is not robust, and that’s a serious problem, especially when our officials think it’s good. Click for more.
Sedgwick County tax exemptions
Unlike the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County has kept track of its tax exemptions. Click for more.
The use of sales tax proceeds in Wichita
Must the City of Wichita spend its share of Sedgwick County sales tax proceeds in a specific way? Click for more.
Sedgwick County income and poverty
Census data show Sedgwick County continuing to fall behind the nation in two key measures. Click for more.
Ranked-choice voting in Kansas
A look at ranked-choice voting and how it might have worked in the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary election in August 2018. Click for more.
Wichita property tax still high on commercial property
An ongoing study reports that property taxes on commercial and industrial property in Wichita are high. In particular, taxes on commercial property in Wichita are among the highest in the nation. Click for more.
Wichita and Midwest income
How much do Wichitans earn at their jobs, compared to other cities? Click for more.
Kansas highway pavement conditions
Each year the Kansas Department of Transportation surveys the condition of highway pavement and issues a report called the Network Optimization System (NOS) Survey.

Of the condition of highways, the report notes: “Since the data was first collected in 1983, the percentage of pavement surface in good condition has appreciably increased while the percentage of poor pavement has significantly decreased.”. Click for more.
Kansas school spending, through 2018
Charts of Kansas school spending presented in different forms. One of the most important charts shows state spending per-pupil, adjusted for inflation. It shows the total of state and local spending, which is useful because in 2015 the state made a change in the way revenue is allocated between state and local sources. It also shows base state aid per pupil, which is an important number as it is the starting point for the school funding formula. Click for more.
Kansas state and local taxes
Among nearby states, Kansas collects a lot of taxes, on a per-resident basis.

From the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2018, Kansas and its local governmental units collected an average of $681 per quarter per resident in taxes. Of nearby states and a few others, Arkansas and Iowa had higher values, and Iowa is higher by only one percent. Click for more.